THE IMPACT OF POLITICS ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS
RHM is compiling a themed issue to be published in May 2019 on the impact of politics on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The purpose of the issue is to assimilate and highlight the consequences of and interconnections between political activities, systems or change on SRHR – whether at global, regional, state, or local levels, and at their intersections, especially in low- and middle-income settings.
The definition of politics is diverse and wide-ranging. Put succinctly by Lasswell in 1936, politics is about ‘who gets what, when and how’1, indicating its close association with power and influence. Politics has many facets. It can be an effective means of expanding evidence-informed action, representation, voice, agency, community engagement, co-operation, and opportunity for progressive change. Perceptions of politics can be negatively and emotionally charged; associated with ideology, dishonesty, self-interest, deceit and the unresponsiveness of institutions. Political activities and their impacts occur at different levels: they may be momentous global events, or they may take place locally, with effects at regional, national or local level. Politics may cause problems, solve them, or both, at the same time. Unintended and unforeseen consequences may result. People and population groups can be differentially affected by political actions in many ways: influencing laws and rights; determining war or peace; defining the distribution of information, wealth and health care; or shaping social cohesion2,3. Political decisions or expressions can have consequences impacting on the lives of individuals, including women and girls, and their ability to exercise and access SRHR. Institutions (such as multilateral organisations or non-government organisations) can also be affected, with changes to funding, established donor mechanisms, programmatic areas and capacity of organizations to engage with SRHR.